Middle distance track event

From Academic Kids

Middle distance track events are track races longer than sprints up to (and arguably including) 5000 meters. Biological factors that go primarily into a middle distance racer are developed fast and type 1 slow twitch muscles, adrenaline (usually for the final kick), anaerobic respiration (bringing it in after the final kick), racing tactics, and aerobic conditioning. The 1500m has been estimated to require an equal contribution from fast and slow twitch muscles.


Common distances (and not so common ones):

The standard middle distances are the 800, 1500, mile (in the US), and the 3000. The 3000 is more common in the US at the high school and collegiate level (along with the US two mile) and is in fact not run at the world championships.

600 m

  • This middle distance length is rather uncommon. The record at this distance for men:

For women:

800 m

The 800m is run over two laps of the track and has always been an Olympic event. It was included in the first women's track programme in 1928, but suspended until 1960 because of shock at the exhaustion it caused the competitors. By contrast, without today's training regimes, male competitors of the day were expected to run themselves to exhaustion in competition.


In a modern competition, the first 100m is run in lanes, after which competitors may break for the inside without deliberately obstructing or pushing another competitor. Running flat out for this distance is impossible and tactics can be a factor in reaching the finish line first. Running in the lead is often considered a disadvantage as trailing runners can choose when to accelerate past the leader, and the effect of wind resistance. Runners not in first place on the inside can find themselves boxed if other runners start to overtake them. Running in last place is not recommended as there may be too much ground to make up when the final sprint for the finish starts.

In top class races, the lane start usually ensures a brisk pace for the first 200m. Occasionally, no one will be happy to lead and the field will bunch for the remainder of the first lap leaving a sprint on the second lap. More often, one runner will ensure a fast first lap and the winner will be the one who slows least on the second lap, despite the appearance of sprinting at the finish. However, the occasional 800-meter runner is able to produce a world-class 800 with even laps, or even negative splits.


800m runners are often fast enough to run in the 4x400 m relay but only Alberto Juantorena and Jarmila Kratochvilova have won major international titles at 400m and 800m. Competing successfully at 800m and 1500m is more common.

World Record for men:

World Record for women:


In the last 11 Olympic Games, athletes from 10 different countries have won the mens 800m title.

1000 m

  • More popular than the 500 m is to the sprints. The record at this distance for men:

For women:

1200 m

1500 m

  • The other premier middle distance race. Is becoming more of a prolonged sprint nowadays, with each lap averaging 55 seconds for the world record performance by Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco in 1998 at Rome (two 1:50 s 800 m performances back to back). Thus, speed is necessary, and it seems that the more aerobic conditioning, the better. Three and three-quarter laps around the track. Lots of tactics can be employed in this race, too numerous to discuss here. A very tough distance to perform at mentally. The distance is often witness to some of the more tactical, more physical races in the sport, as many championship races are won in the final few meters.

This is also known in the US as "the metric mile". The record at this distance for men:

For women:


This length of track, 1760 yards, (1609 metres), is very common in countries that don't use the metric system, and is still often referred to as the "Blue Riband" of the track.

When the International Amateur Athletic Federation decided in 1976 to recognise only world records for metric distances, it made an exception for the mile and records are kept to this day. (There are no world records for the marathon, also run over imperial distance, because the terrain differs race by race).

Historically, the mile took the place that the 1500 m has today. It is still raced on the world class level, but only at select locations. It can be romantically appreciated as a remnant of the past but is still fiercely contested. It is famous for its 4 minute barrier that so many people tried to break. The term "miler" is sometimes also applied to a 1500 m runner. The record at this distance for men:

For women:

2000 m

  • Another event that is rarely run, it is one where a miler's speed will generally prevail over that of anyone challenging him or her. The record at this distance for men:

For women:

3000 m

  • Truly on the borderline between middle and longer distances, the 3000 m are a standard race. Requires decent speed, but can be made up with superior aerobic conditioning and race tactics to support that. The record at this distance for men:

For women:



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